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Addressing the Issue of Spam and Phishing

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Introduction

In the recent past, there has been an increase in the amount of spam over the internet and it is turning a serious issue and counterproductive. Many internet users have been complaining that it takes them even up to hours to clean their inboxes which are full of spam messages. There have also been complaints from users about phishing attacks and an urgent action needs to be taken to counter the spam and phishing issue.

Analysis

Spam involves flooding the internet with numerous copies of a message with the aim of forcing these messages to users who do not choose to receive these messages. Most of spam is in terms of commercial advertisements mostly for dubious products and services, quasi legal services or get-rich quick schemes. It costs the senders of spam very little as most of the costs get paid by the carriers or the recipients of these messages instead of the sender (Parsons & Oja, 2013). There are two major types of spam with different consequences on the internet users.

The first type is email spam. This type of spam targets the individual internet users with direct messages in their emails. The spam lists are created by; stealing internet mail lists, scanning Usenet postings or searching mail addresses on the internet. Some of the email spam costs the user money out of the pocket to receive them hence they are forced to pay additional money. The other type of spam is cancellable Usenet spam. This type of spam comprises of one message that is sent to more than 20 Usenet newsgroups. The spams are aimed at “lurkers”, users who often read newsgroup but they never or rarely post their personal addresses. Usenet spam deprives the users their utility in the website through overwhelming them with irrelevant posts or barrage advertisements. Usenet spam also denies the owners and system administrators the chance to manage the topics that they wish to accept in their system. Email spams are becoming widespread in the recent past since not many individual users are able to communicate to internet providers (Meghanathan, Nagamalai & Chaki, 2012).

Another emerging threat on the internet is phishing. Phishing can be described as an attempt by individuals or organizations to acquire personal and sensitive information such as credit card information, passwords, and usernames through disguising fraudulent websites to be trustworthy. The most commonly targeted companies by phishing include Amazon, eBay, and PayPal among others while banking institutions also follows. Phishing is commonly carried out through instant messages and emails though of late, short message service (SMS) and social networking websites are being used for phishing (Jakobsson & Myers, 2007). As technology is advancing, the innovativeness of phishing is also increasing and many people are not aware of the consequences of the text messages.

Identifying the solutions

The destructive and deceptive email scams such as phishing and spam are endangering the integrity of on-line commerce and email services for organizations and consumers worldwide by eroding the trust on technology as well as preventing the internet users from recognizing the full potential of technology (Jakobsson & Myers, 2007). Some of the ways in which the problem of spam and phishing can be reduced if not solved include; technical approach, legislation, industry collaboration and education and enablement.

Technical approach may not apply directly since up to date; there is no anti-spam protection or technology that has been developed to stop phishing and spam. There are several products from anti-spam companies which can help to reduce the problem. These products are not perfect and before choosing the product things that should be considered include the detection rate, the management and the false positives (Jakobsson & Myers, 2007). Such products include Bayesian filters, reverse DNS lookup, black and white list, Real-time black hole list, antivirus, traffic shaping and reputation services.

Industry collaboration is another way of fighting spam and phishing. All key stakeholders in the provision of the internet should be involved such as internet providers, intermediaries and the users. The collaboration will help to identify the sources of spam and phishing activities. The other way is through legislation. In order to have self regulation, there should be technology efforts and enforcements that are supported by strong laws that forbid deceptive and fraudulent deceptive email practices. The legislation should also empower the consumers without necessarily threatening the vitality of e-commerce. Strong legislation will not only ensure that the criminals are apprehended, but will also help in warning people on the consequences of phishing and spam. The other way is through education and enablement. Phishing and spam are one of the many complaints received from customers (Meghanathan, Nagamalai & Chaki, 2012). Consumers should be educated on the ways of protecting themselves from phishing activities and spam since they are most targeted. They should also be educated on how to report or identify phishing and spam. Mass education should be carried out in the Internet to ensure that all users are alert.

Defense

The reason for advocating these solutions is that they involve all stakeholders starting from the governments, industries to consumers. Those who are involved in sending spam and phishing are highly intelligent hence using one method to curb these activities may not succeed. To fight spam and phishing activities, collaboration among all concerned parties is paramount.

Conclusion

There are high chances that phishing activities and spam will increase in the future if something is not done to stop these activities. The users have been wasting their time while trying to clean their inboxes while others even lose money via the instant messages. Organizations that carry out their businesses through the internet are at risk of their data being accessed through phishing activities. 

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